A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 02, 2018
Finger Steak

"Finger steaks” are a popular Idaho dish. The finger steaks are similar to chicken fingers, and are strips of steak that are battered and deep fried.

Finger steaks were invented at the Torch (also called the Torch Cafe or Torch Lounge) in Boise in the 1950s. Some claim that the dish was invented by William H. “Willie” Schrier (who died in 1996), owner of the Torch from 1953 to 1958. Others claim that finger steaks were invented by Milo Bybee, who went to work as a chef at the Torch in 1946 and who took over the ownership after Willie Schrier. “Finger steaks” was cited in the Twin Falls (ID) Times-News on February 28, 1964.

The Idaho dish of “finger steaks” shouldn’t be confused with the Texas dish of “steak fingers.”


Wikipedia: Finger steaks
Finger steaks consist of 2–3” long by 1/2” wide strips of steak (usually top sirloin), battered with a tempura-like or flour batter, and deep-fried in oil. Typically they are served with French fries and a buttered piece of thick toast. They are commonly found in restaurants, bars, and fast-food joints (either handmade or of the frozen variety) in Southern Idaho and less frequently in nearby states but are not well known outside the Inland Northwest.

History
Finger steaks are purported to have been first served in a restaurant setting at Boise, Idaho’s “Milo’s Torch Lounge” (aka The Torch) in 1957. Milo Bybee claimed to have invented finger steaks while wondering what to do with leftover tenderloin scraps when he was working as a butcher for the U.S. Forest Service in McCall. Bybee went to work as a chef at the Torch in 1946. According to a local lifetyle reporter, Milo’s claim of inventing finger steaks is questioned and that it may have been passed onto him by the original owners of The Torch.

The Stagecoach Inn (Garden City, ID)
Prior to opening the Stagecoach Inn, Willie (Schrier—ed.) had previous experience in the hospitality business, first as part-owner of a bar in Emmett, Idaho; then in the late 1940’s he opened “Willie’s Say When” lounge in Garden City. From 1953-1958, Willie owned and operated the “Torch”, where he created an Idaho original: Finger Steaks. Willie left his finger steaks recipe there with Milo, promising never to compete with the Torch by serving finger steaks at his soon-to-be “Stagecoach Inn”. Jumbo Prawns became Willie’s new specialty, along with fine steaks, lobster, and prime rib.

28 February 1964, Twin Falls (ID) Times-News, pg. 6, col. 6:
“Villa Lounge”
AND PIZZA HOUSE
(...)
Lydia Widmer, our chef, is famous for her pizza, chicken, shrimp and finger steaks!

23 September 1965, Idaho Free Press (Nampa, ID), pg. 6, col. 1 ad:
FINGER STEAKS ... $1.00
(Super Thrift Drugs.—ed.)

Google Groups: alt.war.vietnam
Claymore Mines
Lee
7/17/00
(...)
When I was out there in January, I was disappointed to find that the Torch Cafe in Boise had been turned into an exotic dancing/stripping joint. They used to serve finger steaks that would melt in your mouth.

I first moved to Boise in 1960. Now, I can’t recognize the place.

Boise (ID) Weekly
AUGUST 6, 2014
Steaky Fingers
We roll up our sleeves to sample some of Boise’s famous finger steaks

By Tara Morgan @tarabreemorgan and PHOTOS BY KELSEY HAWES AND TARA MORGAN
Finger steaks are a point of Idaho pride. Like some of the world’s most delicious foods, it’s a scrappy way to make the most of what you’ve got. Steak strips, generally from a versatile cut like the sirloin, are battered then deep fried. What emerges is a tender, crunchy, juicy handheld snack primed for dunking in sauce—generally cocktail with enough horseradish to singe your nose hairs. Perhaps even more than its Southern cousin, the chicken-fried steak, the finger steak has shrugged off all pretense associated with the word “steak” in order to make its home in plastic baskets at some of the state’s dingiest dives.

Widely credited as the father of the finger steak, Milo Bybee is purported to have invented the delicacy at his Torch Lounge in the mid-1950s.

The BBQ Butcher
Beef Finger steaks
Post by BBQ Butcher on Jan 29, 2015 at 4:41am
There are two menu items called finger steaks. One is a simple thin cut of meat prepared in conventional French ways. The other is a deep-fried portable beef fair food akin to corn dogs and chicken strips. The latter is proudly claimed by Boise, Idaho. Willie Schrier at the Torch Restaurant, is often credited for its “invention” in 1957.

“‘Willie’ was Willie Schrier, founder of the home-style cooking eatery, and originator of finger steaks at the Torch Restaurant he also owned....Willie Schrier died in 1996, but Marian and her twin sister Mary Thomas, continue to run the restaurant.”
---"Restaurant doesn’t pull punches with its witty signs,” Charles Etlinger, The Idaho Statesman, June 21, 1999 (p. 1B)

“In my May 1 column, I shared with you that the fingersteak recipe from the original Torch restaurant was under lock and key by the current owner. Since then, the first owner, Margaret (who co-owned the establishment with husband Mylo Bybee), has told me they’ve kept their recipe a family secret. I’ve since found out that the second owner of the Torch sold a recipe to the third. That’s the one under lock and key. In any case, the recipe is still not available to the public. Sorry, folks.”
---"Garden stroll can lead to great food,” Romaine Galey Hon, The Idaho Statesman, June 5, 2002 (p. 3)

Google Books
The Courtship of Eva Eldridge:
A Story of Bigamy in the Marriage Mad Fifties

By Diane Simmons
Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press
2016
Pg. 44:
Out front was a big pink neon sign advertising the Torch (Café—ed.) as the “Home of the Original Finger Steaks.”

Google Books
Lost Restaurants of Walla Walla
By Catie McIntyre Walker
Charleston, SC: American Palate
2018
Pg. 122;
Currently branded as the Idaho Finger Steaks, these spicy battered strips of steak were first produced by a butcher for the U.S. Forest Service in McCall, Idaho. While wondering what to do with leftover tenderloin scraps, butcher Milo Bybee came up with the idea to batter and fry the strips. These tasty strips made their debut with Chef Milo at the Torch Lounge in 1957 in Boise. The finger steaks were later produced by a frozen-food company founded in 1972 to supply the signature tasty strips to the Red Steer Drive-Inns.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Tuesday, October 02, 2018 • Permalink